Wheels still turning for Kentucky, Ecuador relationship

Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Staff Sgt. Adam Honican (center) with the Kentucky Guard’s Field Maintenance Shop 4 explains the throttle position sensor of a M1152 Humvee to members of the Ecuadorian military in Richmond, Ky., Dec. 11, 2013. The Ecuadorians visited Kentucky to learn more about newer models of the Humvee as part of the State Partnership Program between their country and the commonwealth. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

RICHMOND, Ky. — The National Guard’s State Partnership Program celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2013. For 17 of those years, the Kentucky National Guard and the South American country of Ecuador have grown a mutually beneficial relationship of training and cooperation.

While the partnership has seen its livelier days, the Soldiers and Airmen of both countries continue to find common ground in their fields. Several members of the Ecuadorian military visited Frankfort and Richmond, Ky. in December as part of a maintenance-training program, in a fresh sign of the association,

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Staff Sgt. Adam Honican assists an Ecuadorian Marine in calibrating a throttle position sensor on a M1152 Humvee in Richmond, Ky., Dec. 11, 2013. Mechanics with the Ecuadorian military do not have the latest equipment to properly maintain their new Humvees, but learned new ways to adapt to the needs of the vehicles. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

The purpose of the visit was for the Ecuadorians to see how Kentucky maintains their fleet of M1152 Humvees. Ecuador recently purchased more than 100 of the vehicles from the United States and was seeking the knowledge on the new model.

Members of the Ecuadorian Army and Marines spent several days in Kentucky gaining new ideas for the up-keep of the new Humvees. From the basics of work order flow to the proper way to calibrate a throttle position sensor, Kentucky Guardsmen shared what they knew.

“It’s pretty neat to have the opportunity to teach them things they don’t get in their own country,” said Staff Sgt. David Gross with the Field Maintenance Shop in Richmond. “They were excited to be here and were very willing to learn whatever we had to share.  We are more than happy to spread the mechanic knowledge to foreign military partners.”

To see more photos from this story, click here.

Ecuador’s use of its Humvees is quite different from the U.S. Tactical wheeled vehicles are a critical asset for operations along Ecuador’s border regions, particularly the northern border with Colombia. Securing that border is a top priority for both the U.S. and Ecuador.  Transnational organized crime, narcotics and human trafficking, and incursions by terrorist organizations are a common and serious threat to Ecuador’s security.

Wheeled tactical vehicles are the primary means for effectively patrolling the austere conditions found in the mountains and jungles in the border region. Ecuador operates their Humvees for long hours in these harsh conditions and improving their vehicles’ mission capability rate is a key factor in achieving border security goals.

Lt. Mayra Artaega with Ecuador’s army led the small group north for the visit. She believes the maintenance and logistics systems of the U.S. military are of the highest standards and working with their partner nation will only enhance their abilities in Ecuador.

“Tactical vehicles are critical to border security for us in Ecuador, but as a small country our financial resources and facilities are much more limited than they are in the U.S.,” she said. “Working with our friends in the Kentucky National Guard and sharing best practices for properly maintaining our new Humvee fleet is one of the best ways we can protect our investment.”

December’s event was the sixth in a series of exchanges focused on Ecuador’s wheeled vehicle program. Two events were conducted in Ecuador, most recently in April of 2012, and the rest have been in Kentucky.

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Staff Sgt. David Gross discusses transmission maintenance with two members of the Ecuadorian military on a M1152 Humvee in Richmond, Ky., Dec. 11, 2013. Ecuador has purchased new models of the Humvee and were in need of training on the different methods of maintenance. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

According to Lt. Col. Shawn Keller, Kentucky’s State Partnership Program director, the military relationship between the two countries is much better than the strained political relationship of late. The tactical vehicle exchanges with Kentucky and a follow-on visit scheduled for May of 2014 are the only U.S.-Ecuador engagements that Ecuador’s Minister of Defense has approved  for 2014.  A fact that Keller says speaks volumes for the trust and value that Ecuador has for Kentucky and the state partnership program.

“This event is unique, and it’s not only about Kentucky’s continued efforts to help Ecuador build a strong tactical vehicle maintenance program,” said Keller.  “This event also symbolizes Kentucky’s emerging role as a key player in keeping the pilot light burning until the political climate once again allows the U.S. and Ecuador militaries to fully engage.”

“The unique ability to build and maintain lasting relationships with partner countries, even in challenging times, is a hallmark of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.”

 

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